On November 30, 2010, the US Congress approved and President Obama signed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 ("Cobell Settlement"). This legislation approved $3.4 billion in settlement funds. Of this amount $1.5 billion is designated to pay individual Indian trust beneficiaries for past accounting problems and to resolve historical asset mismanagement. If you are an individual seeking information on this aspect of the Cobell Settlement, you can visit the website set up by the Plaintiffs' attorneys here. That website includes a toll free number that you may call for additional information.
The remaining $1.9 billion will be placed in a Trust Land Consolidation Fund for the voluntary buy-back of interests in land that are owned by many people, known as fractional interests. The money in this fund can be used to purchase fractional interests in trust lands at fair value and in accordance with the Indian Lands Consolidation Act. Up to 15% of this amount, or $285 million, can be used for fund administration and management. The US Department of the Interior must distribute the entire fund within 10 years after the date that the court agreement, which is currently being appealed, is finalized.
There are nearly four million individually owned interests that are eligible for purchase at fair market value with Cobell funds. Of these interests, 1.3% or just over 53,000 are in the Pacific region of the Bureau of Indian Affairs-the region that includes the Yurok Tribe and other California tribes.
In order to administer the $1.9 billion fund, the US Department of the Interior established the Land Trust Consolidation Program. The US Department of the Interior is required under the terms of the Cobell Settlement to consult with Indian Tribes to identify fractional interests eligible for purchase from voluntary owners. The US Department of the Interior is currently in preliminary consultation with Tribes. For this reason, it is not yet clear whether Tribes will assist the US Department of the Interior in the administration or appraisal process for fractionated lands within reservation boundaries.
To learn more about the Cobell Land Trust Consolidation Program and the voluntary buy-back of fractionated interests, you can visit the US Department of the Interior's Cobell Settlement website.
For general background information and answers to frequently asked questions about the Cobell case, you can visit the Native American Rights Fund fact sheet.